The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions (Decade Project Vol. 4)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
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The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions (Decade Project Vol. 4)

#1 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 12:10 am

VOTING CLOSED. RESULTS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

If you are reading this sentence, you are eligible to participate in our forum's latest decades list project exploring the films of the 1930s. If you know anyone adventurous enough--on or off the forum--that you think would also enjoy participating, feel free to invite them as well.

Please PM me your list of what you believe are the top 50 films from this decade toward the end of the project. I will send confirmation that I have received your list after I have tabulated it. If you haven't heard from me within a day, you should follow up with me to make sure that I received your list. You may feel that you could compile a list of 50 favorite films from this decade much earlier than the deadline, but it's still highly recommended that you engage in the discussions here. Don't keep your favorites a secret, and always be open to suggestions from others!


THE RULES

1) Each individual list is to comprise no more or less than 50 films, ranked in your order of preference (with no ties). If you haven't yet seen 50 films from this decade that you think are genuinely great (or even if you have), please take advantage of the resources listed below and participate in the ongoing discussions to find films that you can be proud to put on your list.

2) Anyone participating in this project should plan to submit a list by the Round 1 deadline. After this point, I will publish some preliminary results that will not reveal how each film has performed, but will at least make it apparent which films are orphans (i.e. those that have received only one vote, and so receive no points in the tabulation process). During the week that follows (Round 2) all those who are interested in participating further may seek out the orphaned films (or anything else they didn't fit in before the Round 1 deadline) and make revisions to their lists as they see fit, up until the Round 2 deadline. After this point, I will publish the results.

3) Any feature film, serial, documentary, experimental film, or short film released during the 1930s (1930-1939) is eligible.

4) The date given on IMDb is the relevant date for determining a film's year of release, even when it's clearly wrong (unless a special case is made below). If the film is not on IMDb and you say it was released during this period, I'll take your word for it.

5) In certain cases, it may be appropriate for films that are technically separate to be combined, or for films that are technically combined to be separated. In such cases, you may vote for either a part or the whole, but bear in mind that all votes will be competing against each other (e.g. a vote for Ivan the Terrible Pt. 1 will not count toward the vote for Ivan the Terrible in the final tally). Generally, if multiple films are allowed to be combined for voting purposes, you should probably vote for them that way unless you are strongly opposed to doing so. The most common cases:

• Single-director multi-part films for which each segment was released separately (e.g. Feuillade's serials, Lang's two-part epics) may be considered as a single film. Films included in trilogies may not be combined.

• Variant edits: For films that exist in multiple versions (e.g. Welles' Mr. Arkadin, Rivette's Out 1), all votes that don't specify a "secondary" version will be counted toward the "primary" version.

• Portmanteau films: Each of the individual segments and the film as a whole are all separately eligible.

We may occasionally need to make a special case related to rule 4 or 5. If you are seriously considering including a film on your list that you have a question about in this regard, bring it up in this thread and we'll iron it out. However, I will not make any further exceptions during the last week of the project.

For more details about rules and procedures, please refer here.

Finally, though it is not strictly required, it is recommended that you include titles for films that you discuss in this thread in bold, as it will help the film titles stick out amidst all of the other information that will inevitably pile up in this thread. If you particularly like a film, you might even highlight it in a shiny color. See how much that caught the eye? You're going to be thinking about that for days now.


ELIGIBILITY – REMINDERS / SPECIAL CASES

The following are examples of multi-part films that are eligible to be voted for as a single film: Les misérables (Bernard)

In some of these cases, you may feel strongly that you only want to vote for one part of the whole. You can do this, but again, just remember that all votes will be competing against each other (e.g. for all intents and purposes, Die Nibelungen, Siegfried, and Kriemhild’s Revenge are three completely separate films).

¡Qué viva México! is eligible for the '30s. (IMDb has separate listings in the '30s and '70s.)

The following films may be cited as 1930s releases in some places, but not on IMDb, and so are not eligible for this list: Queen Kelly

The following films are cited as 1930s films on IMDb, and so are eligible for this list, regardless of what anyone else might say: Dans la nuit, Partie de campagne


RESOURCES

A list of all films that received votes during our prior 1930s project

Past Forum Discussions
Discussion from the Forum's Prior 1930s Project
Defending of Sad Pandas from the Forum's Prior 1930s Project
Discussion from the Forum's Genre List Projects
Discussion from the Forum's Shorts List Project
Hollywood Pre-Code Films
Screwball Comedies

Guides Within This Thread
Do you feel you have an especially informed opinion about the work during this decade from a particular director, country, genre, etc.? Many people here would greatly appreciate your taking the time to prepare a guide for navigating through all that's available. (Though they do not necessarily need to be comprehensive.) Guides are especially welcome for extremely prolific directors/movements, or to summarize availability for films (such as shorts) that are often hidden away on releases for other films or only available on the web. Past examples: Director Guide, Country Guide, Genre Guide, DVD Availability Guide

Shrew on Harold Lloyd

External Resources

AWAITING SUGGESTIONS

Recommended Reading

AWAITING SUGGESTIONS


THE MATRIX R. SCHMATRIX HONORARY SPOTLIGHT SECTION

Remember that part in the movie Spotlight where all the reporters sat around and said "Hey, you hold your nose and watch this movie that you wouldn't otherwise want to watch and I guess I'll do the same for you"? Oh wait, that's not how it happened at all. No, those reporters went out and put all their heart into their work and gave long important speeches about it. In honor of their garrulousness, this section is now reserved for links to any and all posts on a particular film that are 500 words or longer. Why 500 words? Because when I used to be in the biz, I remember my editor throwing that number around a lot. Sorry folks, but we're living in a post-Spotlight world now, and the old ways just aren't going to cut it anymore.

Blood Money (Rowland Brown, 1933) (Cold Bishop)
Broken Lullaby (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932) (knives)
Justin de Marseille (Maurice Tourneur, 1935) (Cold Bishop)
The King's Vacation (John Adolfi, 1933) (knives)
My Dear Miss Aldrich (George Seitz, 1937) (domino harvey)
Outskirts (Boris Barnet, 1933) (knives)
Resurrectio (Alessandro Blasetti, 1931) (Cold Bishop)
Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor, 1935) (Cold Bishop)
Zoo in Budapest (Rowland V. Lee, 1933) (Tommaso)

***Please PM me if you have any suggestions for additions to/deletions from this first post.***

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#2 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:37 am

I make no promises about participating since I always seem to let myself down, but I do have literally hundreds of 30s movies to watch at some point, so maybe this gooses me into watching some of them! To wit, here's my first round of viewings:

Four’s a Crowd (Michael Curtiz 1938)
Typical screwball La ronde affair with newspaperwoman Rosalind Russell trying to woo PR man Errol Flynn who is engaged to Olivia de Havilland’s doofy heiress, whose father Walter Connolly hates Flynn so much he keeps sicing dogs on him (which culminates in an unexpectedly inspired final punchline). If I failed to mention the fourth partner of this merry-go-round, Patric Knowles, it’s because he’s white bread nothingness. As far as I’m concerned Connolly is the fourth player of the title— after seeing all these screwball comedies, I’m convinced now more than ever that Connolly is one of the great unsung supporting players, and I still remember with great fondness how he was given a rare but much-deserved starring role in 5th Avenue Girl (1939, so eligible for this list— go watch it!) and singlehandedly stole the movie from Ginger Rogers. This movie, however, is never as funny as it should be, and never quite hits the manic highs it could, but there is one great line which I will spoil so you don’t have to ever see this: “He was born a half-wit and spent the rest of his life trying to get the other half to match.” Beautiful. Too bad the film doesn’t deserve it!

Friends of Mr Sweeney (Edward Ludwig 1934)
Mild-mannered newspaper editorialist Charlie Ruggles finds his ol’ college vigor after his former classmate Eugene Pallette pays him a visit. Yes, a Charlie Ruggles and Eugene Pallette buddy pic is just as great as you’d hope it would be. This has some terrific big belly-laughs, but I enjoyed how easy-going all of the characters are, including a friendly hold-up man who tells his worried kidnap victim how fortunate he is to witness an outrage firsthand-- and being a precode flick, he gets away scot-free at the end. Also, there’s this wonderful exchange:

“I want you to know I love my husband.”
“Well, some people like olives.”

The more pre-code films I see, the less convinced I am of their overall worth, but boy does this one buck the trend. List-worthy, and highly recommended.

High Pressure (Mervyn LeRoy 1932)
William Powell’s schemer sets an elaborate deal in place to sell artificial rubber in this fast-paced comedy that’s inexplicably never very funny despite such a great set-up for laughs. There’s a few good gags here and there, especially the ones involving Guy Kibbee as a hobo Powell hires to be the organization’s president since “No one looks better sitting in a chair,” but the rampant ethnic stereotypes are lame and the film is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is.

Jewel Robbery (William Dieterle 1932)
William Powell’s debonair jewel thief romances Kay Francis in this fun but lightweight endeavor unfolding over one long day. One notable running gag involves characters unwittingly smoking marijuana and going full on Reefer Madness— Lubitsch it ain’t.

Private Detective 62 (Michael Curtiz 1933)

William Powell is a spy turned noble private dick in this oddly-named but otherwise predictable venture. No idea what’s going on with the title, maybe it’s the number of cliches present? Watchable, but little else.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#3 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:19 am

Also worth mentioning that the next two List Projects after the Summer With Jean, Jean, and John, are (mostly) concurrent with this decade list: Hollywood Precode (Oct-Dec 2017) and Screwball Comedies (Dec-Feb 2018), so you can do a lot of double duty viewing in the back half of this list, or now in preparation!

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#4 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:23 am

Also, just to confirm, even though everyone knows it wasn't released til the 40s, we're calling Partie de campagne a 30s film because IMDB says 1936?

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#5 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:26 am

Well, even the Criterion and BFI releases date it as 1936.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#6 Post by knives » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:27 am

That's good. I think I'm going to focus on the Oscar nommed films for now though. I certainly have enough with 258 unwatched as of this typing. If I can get that down miraculously to even a quarter I'll be more than happy.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#7 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:31 am

Going through my list from last time we did this (seven years ago?) and wow, I've already excised half the titles off that list in starting work constructing a new one-- it's amazing how tastes can change in such a short amount of time, or at least what failed to maintain a strong presence in my memory in the interim

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#8 Post by movielocke » Thu Jun 28, 2018 2:48 pm

I just watched History is Made at Night and Man's Castle on film struck. The latter is in that weird vein of depression era films like Gabriel Over the White House or Hallelujah, I'm a Bum that either fetishize poverty as noble and or have fascinating political screeds. So in that respect Man's Castle is interesting, it's also quite good, with excellent performances and a fair script, though Loretta Young's role is unfortunately weak. History is made at Night starts off much stronger, but never lives up to its nearly perfect first thirty minutes, instead it gets mired in excessively complex plot shenanigans, abandons/weakens Jean Arthur's character after act 1 and completely jumps the shark by escalating way out of control and over the top for its ending.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#9 Post by movielocke » Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:25 pm

regarding animated shorts, this to me is the decade of Disney, so many phenomenal to perfect short films of stunning visual quality were put out, both within the Silly Symphonies banner and under the character banners (though really it was almost 100% mickey mouse branded cartoons even when starring other characters until the very end of the decade)

I've seen all the LT and MM cartoons on the six golden collections, and nothing really measures up to the best of Disney, though there are some excellent cartoons there, unfortunately I wasn't typing years into my spreadsheet when I last watched them, so its going to be a pain to figure out which of the 400 LT/MM cartoons on DVD were from the 30s! i will probably buy that new porky set for my birthday just for viewing for this list.

Popeye cartoons never worked that much for me, but I should probably watch more of them with fresh eyes.

I do want to rewatch the Superman cartoons, finally, as I remember adoring them as a kid, when we had a probably PD VHS tape.

Walter Lantz' storytelling skills and the draftsmanship of the cartoons are far behind Disney for much of the decade, so most of his studio's work isn't of the highest quality, though again, there are some gems, but I'll have to double check if they're thirties or forties cartoons.

My favorite Lantz cartoon is an early Woody Woodpecker cartoon, "Pantry Panic" that features Woody and an opponent facing off in increasingly deranged ways while they both are suffering from starvation. Sort of like an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon.

There's one Oswald (not Disney) cartoon I love from the 30s because it is terrible, it's called "Confidence" and it features FDR doing a tap dance with Oswald as they sing about how confidence in the economy will save America. Love it.

The Silly Symphonies comprised 75 films, almost all of them are 1930s issues, as the series ended in 1939 with the incomparable "The Ugly Duckling". Watching all 75 in sequence is an enormous pleasure and you really see how animation advanced throughout the decade--and of course Silly Symphonies are all really proto-Fantasia works, especially in the final years. Silly Symphonies went color before the Mickey Mouse series, and in general they are more advanced and more interesting films than the Mickey films, especially the very formulaic and repetitive Mickey B&W cartoons of the early and mid 30s. If you're looking for something shocking, check out the Merry Dwarfs, a terrible cartoon which basically features Dwarfs with erections as its major comedy point, (iirc).

My favorites of the series are:

Birds of a Feather
Egyptian Melodies
(amazing "3D" style animation, like a first person shooter video game)
The Spider and the Fly
The Fox Hunt
The Bird Store
Flowers and Trees
Bugs in Love
There are a lot of Bug and Bird films in the early Silly Symphonies and they all feature amazing animation work, and Bird Store and Bus in Love are the best.
Three Little Pigs
The Flying Mouse
Who Killed Cock Robin?
Who Killed Cock Robin is an absolute must see for fans of the 30s, it is centrally a parody of Mae West, but it's also got a shocking courtroom scene and sense of justice and the catchy little nursery rhyme, "we're gonna hang them all, we're gonna hang them all, hi ho the derry o we're gonna hang them all"
Music Land
Three Orphan Kittens
Cock O' the Walk
Broken Toys
(this totally seems like an inspiration for Toy Story)
Mother Pluto
More Kittens
The Old Mill
And the Ugly Duckling


But really from Silly Symphony 42 (Grasshopper and the Ants) to the end of the series they are all worth watching, as the very best work is almost uniformly in this section of the series with very few poor pieces (Water Babies is perhaps the only bad cartoon in these 33 films)


Mickey Mouse in black and white can be a bit of a chore, in my opinion, other than the first three Mickey cartoons, all great, all 1920s, there is only one great B&W mickey cartoon, and it's one of the last ones, "Mickey's Service Station"

But Mickey really takes off in Color, rattling off a series of nearly perfect cartoons with hardly any misfires from the Band Concert onwards.

My favorites are :
The Band Concert
On Ice
Mickey's Polo Team
Alpine Climbers
Moving Day
Hawaiian Holiday
Magician Mickey
Clock cleaners
Mickey's Trailer
The Brave Little Tailor


On Ice is particularly great with really incredible animation and storytelling that miraculously manages to feature basically every main character, it is probably the best Disney ensemble short there is.

I adore Mickey's Trailer for the inventiveness of the do-anything-Trailer and the mesmerizingly thrilling second half of the film.

Polo Team is so good because it is the most successful Hollywood parody cartoon I've seen. Really charming if you know who is being made fun of.

Hawaiian Holiday has perhaps the first great Pluto solo--Pluto is so good here that this solo basically becomes the blueprint for the entire 40+ film run of the Pluto series--and a fantastic Goofy solo involving surfing, but as an ensemble piece it more or less ignores Mickey and Minnie.

Clock Cleaners is so beautifully integrated in how it moves from one character and disaster to another and ties them all together. for a mostly dialog free piece, it has a great script.

The Brave Little Tailor is the best narrative/plot of the Mickey Mouse cartoons, but it indicates the problem with why the series died out. Formulaic and repetitive Mickey as in the B&W era was outdated and boring, he works better in an ensemble but you still need some starring roles, but it's hard to find just the right kind of narrative vehicle to star Mickey's persona. This fairy tale works well, but also shows how Disney got painted into a corner with the character.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#10 Post by movielocke » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:01 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 11:31 am
Going through my list from last time we did this (seven years ago?) and wow, I've already excised half the titles off that list in starting work constructing a new one-- it's amazing how tastes can change in such a short amount of time, or at least what failed to maintain a strong presence in my memory in the interim
I've not excised half, and not all of them will be totally off the list, but I see at least 20 on my list from last time that are least questionable, and at most are eliminated.
It is from all throughout the list too, including my number five film (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which will probably drop down to the mid twenties, but will be replaced by It Happens One Night, which I didn't even include last time but have rewatched annually for the last few years and marveled at it as it becomes one of my and my wife's favorite films).

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#11 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:32 pm

Capra is safe on my list with American Madness and Lady for a Day, but that's it-- though I still need to watch the non-Bitter Tea movies in the Capra/Stanwyck box

Right now I have Twentieth Century ranked number one, which feels right but could also change between now and submission. Surely it is safe at number one for the Screwball Comedies List though!

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#12 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:25 pm

So here's the first one I watched for this new 1930s round:

Zoo In Budapest (Rowland V. Lee 1933): I don't remember where I first read about this film. It may well have been some recommendation made in the last round of the 30s filmmaking, but I can't check whether anything has been written here about it as unfortunately the search function still doesn't seem to work properly...

But anyway, somehow I had this at the back of my mind and finally sought it out, and I'm quite blown away by it. This has a truly unusual but nevertheless convincing script, set entirely in the eponymous zoo, and being about a young lad who grew up in that zoo and apparently has never seen the world outside of it. Unsurprisingly then, he's in love with the animals and does everything to protect them from unpleasant society ladies who basically care for the purses or furs that can be made out of the animals' skins... Until one day Eve, a girl from an orphanage, escapes from her stern guardian mistress and both of them have to hide in the zoo from the search party looking for both of them. That they also fall in love doesn't come unexpected, but isn't the major point here.

Reading up a little on the film, I see that initial reviewers in 1933 even compared it to the work of Murnau, and while this may seem hard to believe, I'd say it is only a little bit of an overstatement. There is a very lyrical, almost paradisical quality to the scenes in which Zani and Eve hide away from the crowd in a cave or in a watery lagoon-like area of the zoo, and much of the emotional going-ons between the two main characters are reflected in extremely beautiful shots of animals and vegetation. In this respect this is a great mood piece which, like Murnau's "Tabu", seems to set an 'original world' in which there is 'unity with nature' against the destructive forces of civilisation (and it's a great idea to set the film in a zoo, a contradictory place where nature and culture inevitably collide). And naturally these restraining forces in the end seem to overcome our heroes, if it were not for the extremely effective and suspenseful final sequence in which nature quite directly seems to rebel against the constraints of the zoo world, with the wild animals getting out of their cages, and it takes some courageous efforts of the film's hero to solve this situation (and in the end win the girl). Quite apart from any metaphorical meaning (which may or may not be intentional), this final sequence works perfectly as a spectacular action sequence and is every way as good (or even better) as any of the animal sequences seen in the 1930s films of Harry Piel (and I mean this as praise only!).

So, a real discovery for me, and even though because of the extremely stiff competition of the 1930s it's probably unlikely that it will end up on my list (but who knows...), I wholeheartedly recommend this very unusual, perhaps almost unique film. Try to see it even though it never seems to have been released on dvd. The backchannels carry an inferior version with French hardsubs and a newer TV recording which, although it looks rather soft, is perfectly acceptable, all in all.

[Note: it's totally unintentional, but I just checked and see that the above is actually 567 words... so I'm happy to see that this can be a SPOTLIGHT, which I would have made this in any case if the old rules still had been applicable... ;) ]

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#13 Post by swo17 » Thu Jun 28, 2018 6:38 pm

Indeed

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#14 Post by knives » Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:59 pm

movielocke wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 3:25 pm
regarding animated shorts, this to me is the decade of Disney, so many phenomenal to perfect short films of stunning visual quality were put out, both within the Silly Symphonies banner and under the character banners (though really it was almost 100% mickey mouse branded cartoons even when starring other characters until the very end of the decade)
You'll get some strong disagreement from me here. While Termite Terrace hadn't yet gotten to that perfect spot (though Tashlin and Clampett's work from this decade is noteworthy), I can't abide by the dismissing of the Fleisher brothers. Popeye in a lot of ways is the perfect cartoon for the '30s. Rough, simple, and just plain strange. In particular the shorts directed by Willard Bowsky, who died in the war have a strangeness to them that Disney even with Iwerks was never capable of. Their films are significantly more imaginative and daring than Disney's by a mile. And that's just sticking with studio shorts from the big names let alone all the odds and ends hiding out.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#15 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Jun 28, 2018 9:45 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Jun 28, 2018 4:32 pm
Capra is safe on my list with American Madness and Lady for a Day, but that's it-- though I still need to watch the non-Bitter Tea movies in the Capra/Stanwyck box
I was bowled over by Ladies of Leisure - looking forward to revisit it to see if it still holds up as much the second time around.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#16 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:18 am

Melody Cruise (Mark Sandrich, 1933) - A slight bit of pre-code naughtiness with Phil Harris, not "the marrying kind" (not actually code for gay for once), and Charles Ruggles, married but with several apparent girlfriends, on a cruise with multiple temptations. To ensure he doesn't accidentally get married (?!), Harris sends Ruggles' wife an incriminating letter which is only to be opened if he gets married. Oh, and two women end up in Ruggles' cabin - and a former teacher (who knows his wife) is also on-board. Nominally a musical, the numbers are primarily models of rhythmic editing matched to songs passed across many of the cast - only one song, later in the film, is a conventional duet. When the film is happy being loosely plotted farce with musical montage sequences it's a lot of fun, however when some vague romantic machinations take centre stage in the later stages of the film and the numbers disappear it really starts to drag. Still, Ruggles is good value for money and the numbers are decent enough to make this a solid recommendation.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#17 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:36 am

the Wedding Night (King Vidor 1935)
Washed up novelist Gary Cooper moves back to his family home in Connecticut to save money and falls in love with the next door neighbor, Anna Sten. One problem: Cooper’s married. One other problem: Sten’s promised in marriage to local lout Ralph Bellamy (whose boorishness is the only saving grace here— at one point Bellamy attempts to woo Sten by asking if she wants to watch him kill some pigs!). A romance invariably develops between the two when Cooper’s wife refuses the Eva Gabor path and skedaddles back to New York, leaving Cooper all alone with his Japanese houseboy, who of course later quits via a note written in his same verbal “me so solly” shorthand. This movie is bad, bad enough that I’m amazed some people stick their neck out to defend it. It’s sloppily made, the performances are broad, the plot is ludicrous, the characters needlessly make things harder by ignoring obvious and pressing social cues and mores, and the ending is offensive in how it punishes multiple innocent parties to make cheap weepie points. I think the film makes a fatal error in painting Helen Vinson’s wife character as loyal and understanding, even given everything we and she learns— it ironically makes her more and less sympathetic and thus she exists in an uncomfortable uncanny valley of complete phoniness. This movie got Sten fired from her contract. I don’t think she’s necessarily terrible, but her role sucks and she’s indistinguishable from any other vaguely European blonde the studios tried to foist in this era, so it’s not too surprising audiences didn’t latch onto her willing victim role.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#18 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:01 am

the Cowboy and the Lady (HC Potter 1938)
Aww shucks rodeo rider Gary Cooper falls for Merle Oberon’s slumming rich gal and the two get married without the dope realizing she’s not a lady’s maid but a lady. Complications ensue. I love Hollywood films and defend them when I can, but good lord films don’t get more asinine than this crock. Both characters are awful: Cooper has strong classist feelings and is frankly obnoxious to Oberon, his friends, and his mother, and Oberon is a pushover for her presidential-aspiring father and lies repeatedly to Cooper about herself. As the old joke goes, they could both do better. It all comes to a head in a third act that is grossly miscalculated— Cooper shows up unannounced to a fancy dinner being thrown by Oberon’s father in order to court an important endorsement from a congressman. The congressman invites the unknown cowboy to join him and share his take on what “real folks” think. Cooper tells him and then accuses the party of making fun of him and looking down on him, even though at best the denizens of the dinner lob some mild bemused statements and none come from the congressman, who gets the brunt of the ire. It’s a completely phony set up, an attempt to be socially conscious that just reads as, well, what Cooper accused the party of doing: it looks down on everyday folks by painting them as clueless simpletons who can’t read a room. That the eventual message here, as it often is in studio films, is that women belong in the kitchen supporting the man quickly undercuts any nascent socially aware chits this thing may think it earned for talking out of the side of its mouth about class.

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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#19 Post by knives » Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:01 pm

Guess I shouldn't let Dom be the only one posting in here.
Midsummer's Night Dream (1935)
This would have been great if it was a completely dialogless ballet as this is a truly magical film until the actors open their mouths. Rooney as an ass in particular is as awful as everyone says. Has Gargoyles really been the only version of Puck that is not awful?

Camille(dir. Cukor, 1936)
Suffers quite a bit from the stern MGM style. So much of the film, particularly Robert Taylor's performance, feels manufactured to be as blandly pleasing as possible making this seem like a '30s version of a Marvel film. Cukor can't afford any spontaneity with even the ragged support from Jessie Ralph feeling calculated to be a safe sort of transgressiveness. That of course also means the film isn't without its pleasures, but they are just pleasures which disappear with the next pleasure. While less a 'good' film the wacky silent version included on the disc is a much more involving and compelling film.

Dark Victory (Dir. Goulding, 1939)
Whoof, this is a lot more fun than the Cukor film, but that's mostly because it is a hot mess of Warner Bros. medical insanity. Making this a romance is pretty gross especially as George Brent looks roughly a million years old compared to Davis. Still, Goulding takes this cast full of future names and just makes it this compulsively watchable thing that otherwise makes no sense. I'm not sure I could argue it as a good movie (it's pretty objectively a bad one), but compared with the average prestige pic of the era it's pretty fascinating.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#20 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:57 am

I haven't seen it but Google tells me Stanley Tucci played Puck in the 90s movie, and that sounds like great casting to me. No way I'd ever watch the movie to find out, though

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HJackson
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#21 Post by HJackson » Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:47 pm

I hadn't heard of Gabriel Over the White House until movielocke mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. Obviously a one-of-a-kind Hollywood film that functions as pure political propaganda rather than a satisfying narrative feature. Once he has his head injury and decides to solve the nation's problems through sheer force of will, there really isn't any "plot", just a succession of problems he resolves one at a time: unemployment, organised crime, and then finally world peace. Once he cows congress in the second act, the rest seems like a cakewalk for him.

There's something quite strange about the way President Jud is portrayed here - obviously once he gets going with his crusade, we're supposed to be on board, but the fact that his mission is caused by massive head trauma (which I usually associate with mental deterioration in fiction) and that he's frequently depicted as brooding in a psychotic state definitely undermines the notion that Jud is simply a "hero". But you also get a sense that the people behind the production aren't quite aware of how weird he comes across, and think that maybe they thought that "brooding psychopath" is a noble alternative to the fun-loving playboy we see in the first act (there's one really weird and technically quite jarring scene early on where Jud and his nephew hunt around the President's office for a hidden marshmallow while the leader of a million jobless men complains about their lot on the radio, but the juxtaposition is so OTT and unnatural that it doesn't really trigger the appropriate outraged response).

He's totally unmoved by accusations that he's behaving as a dictator, which is telling about the self-image of a certain kind of 1930s American liberal. FDR was reportedly a fan of this film, and "constitutional dictatorship" and supportive studies in ancient constitutional history feature in the political science literature around the time of FDR. Lincoln - who Jud is compared to in the film - was taken by Schmitt to be a kind modern dictator par excellence.

The film also goes way beyond the idea of simple "economic emergency" that would go on to justify FDR's first expansions of executive power, and goes all in on the need for rigid and reformed social order. Even the New Deal aspect of it is pushed to the max with the unemployed workers being reformed as an "army of construction", who Jud sees assembled outside the gates of the White House in a dream, and by the end of the film we have criminals being tried in kangaroo courts and shot by firing squads under the Statue of Liberty. The film does absolutely nothing to hide or sugarcoat what is being depicted here, which makes it all the more fascinating.

Probably won't make my list (Man's Castle will!), but it's a wild film that people should probably watch. Again, I'm shocked that I'd never heard of it until a fortnight ago.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#22 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:09 pm

How about Ian Holm's Puck in the 1968 film pf Midummer Night's Dream?

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knives
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#23 Post by knives » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:27 pm

Wasn't even aware of that.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#24 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:11 am

knives wrote:
Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:27 pm
Wasn't even aware of that.
An amazing all-star cast -- with sort of weird cinematography.

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BenoitRouilly
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Re: The 1930s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#25 Post by BenoitRouilly » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:44 pm

Looking at the 60ies poll, I thought it would be interesting to rank films by seen/unseen status on the side of the regular votes.
Because I suspect lot of the great "orphans" and other films placing low suffer in the ranking because they are not being watched, compared to the unfair ranking of widely published titles.

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